It Turns Out That There’s Actually Little Evidence That Screen Time Is Harmful for Kids


Many parents set limits on how much screen time their children have. It’s a commonly held belief that too much screen time isn’t good for kids, but in a modern world where there are screens pretty much everywhere we look (including one you might be holding in your hand right now), it can be harder and harder to set limits on screen time.

In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended the following screen time limits: no screen time for children under 18 months, one hour of screen time for children up to 5 years of age, and for children ages 6+, it was at the parents’ discretion.

Why set limits on screen time? Multiple studies have suggested that screen time contributes to problems like heart disease, poor mental health and lack of sleep.

New guidelines from the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) in the UK states that there isn’t enough evidence to prove that screen time is harmful for children or that specific limits should be set on screen time.

Dr Max Davie, Officer for Health Promotion for RCPCH says, “During our research analysis, we couldn’t find any consistent evidence for any specific health or wellbeing benefits of screen time, and although there are negative associations between screen time and poor mental health, sleep and fitness, we cannot be sure that these links are causal, or if other factors are causing both negative health outcomes and higher screen time. To help us develop a better understanding of this issue, I urge both more and better research, particularly on newer uses of digital media, such as social media.”

The one screen time limit the RCPCH does suggest setting for screen time use has to do with bedtime. Even though some devices have a low blue light setting, you shouldn’t let your children have any screen time an hour before bedtime. This limit will help ensure that children have an easier time falling asleep.

As far as the rest of the day is concerned, parents just need to keep a few question in mind. “Is your family’s screen time under control? Does screen use interfere with what your family want to do? Does screen use interfere with sleep? Are you able to control snacking during screen time use?”

Dr Davie adds, “I think it is important to encourage parents to do what is right by their family. However, we know this is a grey area and parents want support and that’s why we have produced this guide. We suggest that age appropriate boundaries are established, negotiated by parent and child that everyone in the family understands. When these boundaries are not respected, consequences need to be put in place. It is also important that adults in the family reflect on their own level of screen time in order to have a positive influence on younger members.”

Do you put a limit on your children’s screen time?